LINGUIST List 4.738

Tue 21 Sep 1993

Disc: The Linguistic Wars

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 4.722 WARS and constraints: author's response
  2. Michael Covington, Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Syllabi
  3. , Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Ross, Syllabi
  4. Esa Itkonen, Getting outdated
  5. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 4.729 Linguistic Pedagogy

Message 1: Re: 4.722 WARS and constraints: author's response

Date: Sat, 18 Sep 93 16:16 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 4.722 WARS and constraints: author's response

response to RAHarris's question to me regarding my silly quip about what
the LW's were REALLY like. In no way was this a criticism of the book.
Just a note about the personal struggles and the atmosphere and debates and
almost fist-fights which had little to do with the substantive issues except
in the way they reflected deep felt loyalties and strongly held views on
the philosophy of science. There is much yet to be written on the linguistic
wars which have to do with the sociology of science rather than with therial
theoretical arguments. We linguists are of course not unique in this
regard but we do constitute an interesting case.

Vicki Fromkin
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Message 2: Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Syllabi

Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1993 17:17:43 Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Syllabi
From: Michael Covington <mcovingtai.uga.edu>
Subject: Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Syllabi

In an earlier issue of LINGUIST, Margaret Fleck (mfleckbolivar.cs.uiowa.edu)
points out that it is possible and desirable to tell linguists about the
history of their field concisely, without making new trainees read all the
old material in the original.

I'd like to point out that among the sciences, there are huge
differences in the extent to which knowledge of the history of the
field is valued. An introductory astronomy course, for instance,
almost _is_ a course in the history of astronomy. But electronics
textbooks ignore history to such an extent that half of them misspell
"Wien bridge" (and never mention the fellow it's named after at all).

Nobody would argue that astronomy is a dead science. Maybe it's a
mature science, and a willingness to subsume the history of the field
in one's current approach is a sign of maturity.


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:- Artificial Intelligence Programs mcovingtai.uga.edu : *********
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Message 3: Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Ross, Syllabi

Date: Sat, 18 Sep 93 21:42:50 EDRe: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Ross, Syllabi
From: <pesetskMIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: 4.719 The Linguistic Wars: Ross, Syllabi


Margaret Fleck, in her note, raises a good point about how to present
the work of previous generations to a class (discuss the contribution
without requiring students to read the original). That is exactly what
we do here at MIT in certain cases (e.g. Ross's thesis, at least in
recent years). In other cases, students are asked to acquaint
themselves with the actual papers. I don't think I was fighting a
"straw man", because I do think that, in the case of Ross's thesis, the
only way to truly appreciate his accomplishment is to read it. And I
have unfortunately found it hard to fit the thesis (and some other
similarly important works) into an already packed curriculum. Too bad,
but a defensible decision. That's all I was saying.

-David Pesetsky
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Message 4: Getting outdated

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1993 11:53:56 Getting outdated
From: Esa Itkonen <EITKONENsara.cc.utu.fi>
Subject: Getting outdated

In his contribution to the recent debate on linguistic wars David
Pesetsky articulates an interesting view of progress in linguistics.
According to him, linguistic theories get outdated by some uniform and
ineluctable historical process. Thus, theories produced in 1967 have
become outdated in 1983 to exactly the same degree as theories produced
in 1951 had in 1967. As intersting as this view is, it flies in the
face of the facts. For instance, Apollonius Dyscolus invented (rather
than discovered) the so-called performative hypothesis some 1800 years
before Ross did. This means that, rather than being outdated by,
Apollonius outdid (on this issue) the theories produced during some
1799 years after his time. Similarly, Panini invented underlying
(morpho)phonological forms and rule-ordering some 2400 years before
Bloomfield and some 2420 before Chomsky & Halle (not to speak of
the invention of the theta-roles). These and similar facts have been
documented in rich detail (but modesty prevents me from revealing where).
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Message 5: Re: 4.729 Linguistic Pedagogy

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 93 10:30:49 EDRe: 4.729 Linguistic Pedagogy
From: Geoffrey Russom <EL403015BROWNVM.brown.edu>
Subject: Re: 4.729 Linguistic Pedagogy

The discussion of Ross's work made me wonder if anyone holds the
position that I have attempted to formulate below:

Somebody who finds a crucial case for a theory gets credit for that
crucial case only with regard to the theory actually cited. If the same
case turns out to be crucial for some newer theory (notational variants
excluded), no credit is awarded the original finder of the case, and all
credit is awarded to the person who cites the case as crucial for the newer
theory. In other words, no special credit is assigned to someone who finds a
case that turns out to be crucial for lots of theories, the general utility of
the case being attributed to accident.

 -- Rick Russom
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